From the Pastor: Feeling Pain For Sin, Continued
Last week I wrote about the pain a priest feels if he should ever celebrate Mass in the state of mortal sin. Today I want to point out that the Catholic in the pew who is in mortal sin and still insists on receiving Holy Communion, is, in some way, in a worse position than the sinful priest, for the priest (in my example, anyway) had no choice but to receive Our Lord while in a sinful state, while the lay person in mortal sin makes a deliberate choice to receive Him although he has no obligation to do so.
A lay person who is conscious of mortal sin should be pained in realizing what he is doing to Our Lord. Jesus, after all, died to take away our sins, not to pat us on the back and say, “Way to go! Sin even more if you like! You can do anything you wish now, and go straight to Heaven when you die, for by My Death and Resurrection I have made immorality a righteous form of recreation.” No, a faithful Catholic knows better. He knows that Our Lord loved him to death but made that Sacrifice so that sin could be conquered, not coddled. He knows that even his venial sins caused Our Lord’s Passion to be increased and his mortal sin made it nearly infinitely worse. In His Divinity, Jesus, being outside of time, took all of our sins—past, present, and even future sins—upon Himself and in His humanity suffered beyond human comprehension for them. The faithful Catholic also knows that one of the worst sins he could possibly do, for even among mortal sins some are worse than others, is to directly sin against the man/God who came to save him from his sin. So if he were to be in a state of sin and make the choice to receive Holy Communion in that state, most likely due to pride (“I don’t want anyone to think that I am a sinner”), the pain should be magnified beyond bearing. “I just took Jesus,” he should acknowledge, “and threw Him into the cesspool which is my soul in its current state. And I did it because I care more about what people think of me than about what He thinks of me.” Such a person either really feels tormented by what he has done or else he rejects the moral teachings of the Church and lacks the faith that is necessary for salvation.
Assuming his conscience actually does ache, though, how does such a person relieve himself of such anguish? Through the same contrition, etc., mentioned last week he can return to God’s grace and peace. But, given enough time spent in mortal sin, even formerly good people will develop a perverse desire for their sin which is stronger than their desire for God, though without ever admitting to it so bluntly. At that point, they choose to numb themselves to the reality of sin and its consequences. The layman, as in the case of an unrepentant sinful priest, will anesthetize himself with drugs, alcohol, assorted physical pleasures, excuses, and denial. For both the layman and the priest, the denial must immediately include a denial that the Eucharist is Jesus. For there is no pain associated with receiving a piece of bread, even Holy Bread, if it simply signifies—but is not—God. As he proceeds down this path he ceases to be Catholic in any meaningful way. One truth after another, like tumbling dominos, falls away. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament means nothing, or, worse than nothing, is idol worship, if the Blessed Sacrament is just bread. The Mass is then seen, not as The Holy Sacrifice, but rather as a play, a terribly boring form of repetitious entertainment, one that certainly could not warrant an obligation to attend. The priest is nothing more than a man with a “make believe” job, for he doesn’t really confect the Eucharist. He also, therefore, doesn’t have the power to truly forgive sins, so confession must be denied as well. As for marriage, well, that nonsense about the two becoming one flesh is also pure fantasy, so all the Church teachings which go along with marriage (chastity, faithfulness, procreation, sacrificial love, and other such quaint notions) can/must also be discarded as pious nonsense. Yes, the need to relieve the pain of a sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion can easily lead to a complete loss of faith.
So here is something for you to ponder. Have you ever received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin? Did it cause you tremendous pain? If not, why not? Have you since stopped believing in other Church teachings? How many sacrilegious receptions did it take before you stopped believing? Or before you finally cracked under the pressure (a good thing!) and begged God’s forgiveness? Do you see how denials are all related? Do you really believe that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity? Do you really believe that mortal sin is deadly to your soul, cuts you off from God’s grace, and that you will go to hell if you die without being restored to the state of sanctifying grace? I think it is high time for Catholics—clergy, religious, and laity alike—to acknowledge the pain of sin rather than deny it. The pain that sin causes can only be cured by humility, repentance, confession, and absolution, that is, by true love. Denial of the pain, on the other hand, only postpones it until Judgment Day, leaving one in utter agony for all eternity. “I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance. (Luke 5:32)” Therefore, do not fear refraining from Holy Communion until He restores you to grace!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka